Mark Esper sent a classified memo to US President Donald Trump warning him against a rapid withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, shortly before he was “terminated” from his position as secretary of defence, media said Saturday.
Trump tweeted in October that all US troops should be home by Christmas, only to be disavowed by US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien who said that thousands of troops were “on path” to remain there into early next year.
Esper raised concerns about zeroing out US military presence in the country amid peace talks with the Taliban insurgency, according to senior US officials who spoke with the Washington Post. He drew Trump’s attention to a rise in violence by the Taliban and a possible danger to the remaining troops and allies.
Trump has been in a hurry to deliver on his pledge to end the longest war in US history. After the US reached a deal with the Taliban in February the number of troops was drawn down to 8,600 in July, with another 4,000 troops expected to leave in fall. By early next year the contingent may be reduced to 2,500 servicemen.